OceanSky’s first experience will be performed in the Airlander 10, which is a hybrid aircraft. A hybrid aircraft derives its lift from a combination of aerodynamic lift (like an aeroplane), lifting gases (like an airship) and vectored thrust (similar to a helicopter). Airlander generates up to 40% of its lift from aerodynamics by the passage of air over the hull and the remainder from buoyant lift from the helium. At lower speed and closer to the ground, vectoring engine power is used to provide additional lift and manoeuvrability for take-off, landing and ground handling.
So, in other words, the Airlander is a combination between an airship, an airplane and a helicopter. What makes Airlander so efficient is that it uses the lifting gas helium to offset its weight, meaning the Airlander becomes very light compared to a conventional airplane. Its lightness makes it efficient.
OceanSky’s vision is to make aviation sustainable. Airplanes don’t constitute a viable option for environmentally sustainable operations, even if we could run them on biofuel and batteries. It’s just not enough and simply not the answer for aviation – more on this under.
At OceanSky we believe we need to change the equipment for aviation to become sustainable. A hybrid aircraft is a combination of airship, airplane and helicopter; it’s a combination where we get the best of all worlds.
The lifting gas offsets the weight of the aircraft meaning that less energy is required to keep it aloft. Like an airship, this means that it can carry a lot of payload, burn very little fuel and fly for a long time.
The use of aerodynamic lift means that Airlander can generate more or less lift as required. This means that, unlike an airship, it is heavier-than-air. It can therefore stay on the ground while it is loaded, unloaded, fuelled and maintained, meaning that it requires little or none expensive, fixed infrastructure.
In this way, a hybrid aircraft combines the efficiency, capability and sustainable potential of an airship with the practicality of a normal airplane. Hybrid aircraft minimise the need for expensive ground infrastructure to operate in remote places, while enabling safe, quiet, efficient and capable flight. Its low operational cost, low environmental impact and unique flight and land capabilities enables OceanSky to reach the unreachable. So, for example, OceanSky could fly Stockholm – London with an Airlander with the benefit of having a sleeping cabin for guests on-board. The flight would take 12h instead of 2,5h but it would be quiet and comfortable, and we can fly through the night to bring you there well rested in the morning. We could also take-off and land on a small field that could be very central.
At OceanSky we believe we need to preserve our nature and minimise the need for infrastructure. Every paved road or runway means less biodiversity, less animal habitats and less natural resources. The world is building bigger and bigger airports and hardened surfaces in an unprecedented pace. A hybrid aircraft does not need runways. Although large in volume, Airlander needs only an open, relatively flat space to take off and land without the need of asphalt. This allows us to take passengers to the furthest corners of our world. This flexibility in operations is one advantage of Airlander’s hybrid design. Unlike traditional airships, Airlander is heavier-than-air, which allows it to “sit” on the ground similar to an aeroplane or helicopter. That’s why we can land on the North Pole!
The most critical phase of flight in aviation is take-off and landing. Imagine landing in 20kts instead of 120kts. Lower speed means improved safety. Furthermore, the Airlander is designed and manufactured to the same standards of safety as every other aircraft. Airlander will have an EASA type certificate, and the OEM is approved by EASA to design and build aircraft. Equally, in operations, OceanSky is subject to the same regulations as any other airline operating under the European commercial aviation framework. Aviation is regarded as having the most advanced safety culture of all transport modal industries.
Like any other commercial aircraft, Airlander will be type certified and capable of flying in a wide range of weather conditions. The Airlander can safely take off and land in wind conditions similar to commercial airplanes but unlike other large airplanes, Airlander is not restricted by cross-wind, as it can simply turn into the wind and take off in any direction due to the non-dependency of runway direction. The Airlander will also be capable of withstanding lightning strikes and icing conditions, similar to all type certified commercial aircraft.
Unlike airplanes, the majority of Airlander’s maintenance can be performed attached to a mast without the need of a hangar. Some maintenance is most easily performed while in a hangar, so for heavy maintenance OceanSky will use a hangar.
Utilising lighter-than-air technology, Airlander burns much less fuel in flight than conventional aircraft. The buoyant lift of helium offsets the weight of the aircraft, therefore requiring much less thrust (and therefore much less fuel) to generate lift. This immense potential to save fossil fuel can put aviation in a direction of non-dependency of oil. Because if we only need a fraction of the energy, we can also use non-fossil alternatives.
Hybrid Air Vehicles, the Airlander OEM, is on the path to develop electric engines for Airlander 10. Read more about Project E-HAV1:https://www.hybridairvehicles.com/news-and-media/overview/news/e-hav1/
Actually the first full size prototype was flying already in 2012. Back then under military flag. However, in 2016 and 2017, the Airlander was test flown inside the Civil Aviation framework of EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency). The OEM is working towards the type certified production aircraft. They are anticipating aircraft in service from the early 2020s, with test flying to begin at some point before that. The exact timeline is dependent on a variety of factors including orders, certification, and build progress. OceanSky’s North Pole expedition is set for take-off 2023 or 2024.
According to the US Geological Survey, there are at least 50 years of known helium reserves based on current consumption. One Airlander aircraft would account for 0,0017% of available supply. Aviation equipment is normally scheduled to be in operation in excess of 25 years. Once an Airship is filled it does not consume helium, all gas will be reused for a next future Airship.
The great hull you see in the pictures and videos are where the containment of the helium is. More than 90% of the volume of an airship is used for containing the lifting gas. The passenger gondola is below the big round hull. The gondola is around 250m2 and holds the cockpit, living space and all the Horizon Cabins, which we call the private suites you as a passenger will be sleeping in.
The private Horizon Cabin overall area measures approximately 10m2, of which includes a shower and bathroom and a small wardrobe.
The first flight to the North Pole is planned to be in 2023 or 2024. The season is starting in March and ends in October.
The flight from Svalbard to the North Pole and then back to Svalbard will be 36 hours, plus 1 hour before departure for boarding and 1 hour after for debriefing.
On OceanSky’s itinerary there will be 2 nights on-board for the flight from Svalbard to the North Pole and back to Svalbard. This might be altered on individual charters as agencies and private companies that charter departures may offer tailored itineraries.
One cabin is for maximum 2 guests.
There are 8 cabins on-board, each for 2 guests.
There will be maximum 16 guests on-board.
There are 7 crew-members on-board, and could be one extra expedition leader/translator for certain charter flights. 4 of the 7 are pilots.
We will land on the North Pole 09:00 in the morning and we will take-off again 15:00, so it will be six hours on the North Pole. However, this might be different to specific chartered departures.
No, and this is because of allergies (and we don’t want your dog/cat/bird to escape on the North Pole for us to spend all the time up there looking for it.)
We will take-off from Svalbard 18:00 in the evening. There will be an airborne cocktail followed by dinner and an introduction in the evening. At 07:00 the next morning it will be breakfast and we will land 09:00.
On the way back we will start with Panoramic Arctic sightseeing and wildlife spotting followed by a dinner and we will finish the evening with a cocktail and an Arctic expedition lecture. We use the best chefs in the world and the best expedition leaders we can find. However, remember this is an expedition, and there is only 3 crewmembers taking care of guests, the other 4 are pilots and must operate the Airlander. This journey will be something special and extremely high in quality, but we are not aiming for a 5 star service concept. This is an incredible adventure that will send ripples in the future way of travel.
The arctic expedition leader will start with an instruction and a security brief. Then there will be outdoor activities and a polar lunch in the snow at noon. We will learn how to survive in the Polar Regions and how the pioneers of discovery learned how to endure the harsh conditions of Arctic and managed to reach their goals.
We will first hand be told the stories of these pioneers, why they did it, how they did it and how you can survive in the most challenging climate on earth.
We will be flying up to 6000 feet. We can go higher, up to 10,000ft, but we will be flying low and slow so our guests can enjoy the view better. The lower the better, maybe even as low as 300 feet. That’s similar to be on the 25th floor in a high rise building.
We will be cruising at airspeeds between 20kts (37km/h) and 60kts (110km/h), but normal cruise speed is calculated to 50kts (91km/h). We will take it slow and easy, for a soft, quiet and smooth flight.
Bring winter clothes. Really warm winter clothes. Think layer on layer. And bring your camera. That’s the short version, but fear not, OceanSky will supply a detailed packing list well in advance of your travel.
The average (mean) temperature at the North Pole is −40° C (which happens to also be −40° F) in the winter and in 0° C (32° F) in the summer. We only fly during the summer season because during the polar night it is very dark. You can see the actual weather and find the forecast for the North Pole with this link https://www.yr.no/place/North_Pole/Other/North_Pole/
Yes, the flight could be delayed due to weather conditions. The published itinerary is meant as a guideline and may change due to weather, wind and ice conditions.
On some occasions, adverse conditions may require us to deviate from our intended itinerary, in which case we will provide the best available alternative. However, we do not expect more deviations as regular flights experience in the European skies.
The Airlander is a sturdy vehicle, and can withstand very heavy winds. Up to 50kts on the ground and even more when airborne.
The adventure begins and ends in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, governed by the Kingdom of Norway.
Svalbard is a group of islands, north of Norway. It is an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Longyearbyen is the most northern settlement in the world with over 2000 inhabitants. You can fly to Longyearbyen airport from Oslo or Tromsö almost daily with SAS or Norwegian airlines.
We work with the best companies in the Arctic. They can help you with these arrangements. OceanSky will offer Svalbard activity packages in a near future.
It would be good if you plan with some extra nights before and after the North Pole Expedition, so you won’t be late for the flight and also because we might have to delay the flight due to weather sometimes. (There are a lot of fun things to do and see in Svalbard for your stay there as well). OceanSky works with the best and most experienced travel companies in Svalbard that arranges activities and packages and can even help you with the flight bookings. Let us know and we can connect you.
The North Pole Expedition will be the first flight with the hybrid aircraft. We are planning some other adventures as well, be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay informed and get all the latest news and updates.
OceanSky functions like any other airline. Of course our destination is a bit more adventurous, so we have plenty of margins in our planning. That’s why we plan a whole week per expedition, in order to make sure our planning holds.
If we delay because of the weather then we will postpone the flight 24 hours (it’s good if you plan with some extra nights in Svalbard because of this so you’re a bit prepared). If there are any other reasons for the delay, something technical for example, we have technicians on site that will maintain and repair any technical issue, and we’ll depart when it’s safe to fly again.
It’s a good idea to plan with some nights before the flight and after as well to be a little bit flexible. There might be delays due to weather or other circumstances.
Weather can be unpredictable in this part of the world and your flight inbound Longyearbyen could be delayed or cancelled due to inclement weather or other unforeseen circumstances which is why we strongly recommend staying an extra night or two in Svalbard to ensure that you provide yourself with margins. The expedition to the North Pole could also be delayed so it would be good to be prepared and plan extra nights in Svalbard after the expedition as well. There are lots of things to do and see in Svalbard as well so many choose to take this opportunity to explore this fascinating city and the surrounding countryside. Svalbard is a wild place. Longyearbyen, located on the largest island Spitsbergen, is one of the most northerly settlements on Earth. There are only a few roads. Dog sleds and snowmobiles are used to access the wilderness. With some luck you might see some Polar bears here as well.
Since the areas you will travel to on this expedition are remote and wild (that’s why we go there!), we require medical evacuation insurance for this expedition. We require that you send us documentation of the independent coverage you have selected and that your chosen independent insurance plan includes at least US$150,000 in medical evacuation coverage.
To provide peace of mind while you travel, we also strongly recommend purchasing comprehensive travel insurance. Plans may cover everything from medical treatment to trip cancellations and delays and lost luggage. OceanSky will use the experience of the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) for safety services and guidelines relating to passenger safety, search and rescue, biosecurity, wildlife and operational procedures.
Probably, we will look for them and see if we can find any, but we can’t guarantee that you will see them. The more time you spend in Svalbard the more chance of seeing Polar bears.
It depends on what time during the season you choose to join the expedition. You have a better chance to see Northern lights in the beginning and in the end of the summer season when it’s dark. Best time to see this natural phenomena during OceanSky’s summer season, would be September and October.
It depends on what time during the season you choose to join the expedition. To get to see the most of the mid-night sun you should go before September.
No, you cannot.
Yes, a ticket holder may transfer the package travel contract to another person (name change), provided that the person satisfies all the contract conditions for participating on the expedition.
Yes, it is possible. ADVENTURE ticket holders will be invited to upgrade to PIONEER status on a later date. This includes the option to upgrade to the inaugural flight.
Yes! Of course! Don’t forget it!
No, he’s in Finland in Rovaniemi in Lapland. He doesn’t live on the North Pole anymore, it was too cold.
Probably not unless you bring a satellite phone. OceanSky will of course have a Satellite phone for emergencies as well as HF-radio.
We are evaluating our different options to make sure we get the best alternative for our needs. There is satellite coverage all around the globe, so for safety messages we are connected.
We will be using the latest navigational equipment and GPS-navigation, there will not be any problems with this kind of navigation. (It was harder before in the old days using compass and grid navigation…)
No. We only use helium, which is a non-flammable gas. Hydrogen is not allowed in commercial aviation as a lifting gas.
OceanSky’s expedition to the North Pole is a historic endeavour. There are only a few departures available for the first season. This means that we will only be able to take the true pioneers with us to land on the top of the world and usher in a new sustainable era of aviation. Most of our departures are by charter.
However, we aim at doing a few departures available by individual cabins (for 2 people) as well. In order for us to put together a good dynamic of the group of individuals that does not charter the whole airship, we try to gather people with a common interest but diverse background. Our guests are all conscious travellers as well as shepherds of the earth; we believe sustainable travel starts with the travellers.
In order to apply for an invitation, you fill in the form under :
Please make us understand why you should be invited to take part of this historic endeavour. Give us a few days to process your request. We allocate individual cabin bookings into a few departures. Most of our departures are booked by travel agents and tour operators or chartered by individuals or by companies. The departures for single cabin bookings (for two people) are therefore very limited and we take great care to put together the dynamic groups with regards to interest, language, background and experience.
We place the highest regards in confidentiality and keep our sensitive client lists private. But to say some things that unite our clients, they are:
Shepherds of the earth, who are showing great passion, some are famous names and world famous in their field
High level officials
Celebrities and influencers
Companies and organisations that do good things for the world In general, our invitations go out to individuals and companies that are showing the will to explore and push the boundaries and find new ways of supporting and creating change.
Yes, you may, that is up to you to decide if you want to do it or not.
When you place a booking request, we will send you the full Terms & Conditions together with a deposit invoice.
The detailed information also gives you the short version of the conditions here
under password. Don’t have a password? Please apply here first
All deposits made by travellers on OceanSky’s itineraries are covered by a travel guarantee by Swedish authority Kammarkollegiet. In fact, all money collected by OceanSky is escrowed into Kammarkollegiet’s own account and are never used by OceanSky.
If OceanSky becomes insolvent, traveller’s deposits are claimed and paid out directly from Kammarkollegiet’s website through a simple web form.
Deposits can be claimed if OceanSky does not deliver travel latest end of 2024.
That said, travellers do not take any financial risk of losing their deposit. The only risk of losing money is if a traveller decides to cancel his or her journey after paid deposit. Everyone who sells or markets travel arrangements or travel packages must have a travel guarantee if the trips are subject to guarantees under the Travel Guarantee Act. The purpose of this Act is to protect travellers in the event of the travel agent becoming insolvent.
Terms for deposited funds
The following terms apply when depositing funds with the Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency for travel guarantees.
The funds for the guarantee must be deposited in Swedish Kronor (SEK).
The money will then be put in an interest-bearing account with the Swedish National Debt Office in accordance with the Deposit Money in Escrow Act (1927:56). The Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency will call on funds to compensate for negative interest.
Negative and positive interest will be reported semi-annually or annually. Where applicable, we will provide information to the Swedish Tax Agency.
We are entitled to immediately use funds in accordance with Sections 6 and 7 of the Travel Guarantee Act (2018:1218).
By depositing funds with us, you agree to these terms.
Under the following link you may search in the “free text search” field for registered companies with travel guarantees under the Kammarkollegiet: https://www.kammarkollegiet.se/engelska/start/all-services/search-travel-guarantees
Just type in OceanSky and it should show you the result with respective registration number.
The contact details for Kammarkollegiet can be found here: https://www.kammarkollegiet.se/engelska/start/contact
And for claims you may click on this link: https://www.kammarkollegiet.se/vara-tjanster/resegaranti/ansok-om-ersattning-ur-resegarantin
Since there is currently no English version of the reimbursement form available we just contacted Kammarkollegiet directly via Email email@example.com and shortly after a nice lady replied the following:I recommend you to ask travellers who have questions to contact us via email or phone. For valid forms for applying for reimbursement, travellers are not required to use them. They can write on their own form and if any information is missing, we will ask them to supplement it.
You have two options then. Either you sell your ticket to someone else or the second option is that you terminate your ticket.
The termination fee is equivalent to the total amount of deposit paid by the client. OS will confirm specific expedition dates 12 months before departure. OS expects the offer to be for expeditions starting in Spring 2023 or 2024. In the unlikely event that OS does not perform an expedition in the period up to December 31st 2024, the client has the right to claim the paid deposit. Upon the client’s written request, OS will transfer the refund within a time period of 14 days.
Payments after deposit (5%) are scheduled to 9 months prior departure (45%) and 3 months prior departure (50%).
Yes, the traveller may transfer the package travel contract to another person (name change), provided that the person satisfies all the contract conditions for participating on the expedition. 1 ticket is equal to one cabin for 2 people.
Yes, you can travel alone in the cabin or bring someone with you if you want to. The ticket price is per cabin and maximum 2 persons in each cabin.
No, maximum 2 persons per cabin.
Minimum age for booking is 18.
There will be a few selected family-friendly departures that allow children of 11+ years on the expedition.
OceanSky, like all other commercial aviation operators, has insurance for passengers when flying, so you are insured but since the areas you will travel to on the North Pole expedition are remote and wild (that’s why we go there!), we require a special medical evacuation insurance for this expedition.
You will have to get your own and we require that you send us documentation of the independent coverage you have selected and that your chosen independent insurance plan includes at least US$150,000 in medical evacuation coverage.
Thank you for understanding that our policy exists exclusively in the interest of our guests’ safety. To provide peace of mind while you travel, we also strongly recommend purchasing comprehensive travel insurance. Plans may cover everything from medical treatment to trip cancellations and delays and lost luggage.
Our PIONEER clients are the very first 100 travellers that join OceanSky to land on the North Pole in the first season. The PIONEER flights are the first 10 expeditions to the North Pole with OceanSky, including the inauguration flight.
The PIONEER reservations will be released on a later date. Only ADVENTURER ticket holders will be given the opportunity to upgrade to PIONEER status. Get your ticket and more info will come for the PIONEERS.
Our ADVENTURER clients are the travellers that join OceanSky to land on the North Pole during the first season but after the maiden voyage and after the 100-CLUB of PIONEERS on the first 10 expeditions, so from the 11th expedition and onwards all the ADVENTURERS will be on-board.
OceanSky is creating change by:
Promoting the use of new alternative aircraft (electric and LTA)
Supporting and using alternatives to fossil fuels
Supporting and using ultra clean fuels with lower emissions of toxic substances
Promoting less travel – quality rather than quantity
Promoting the message and stories of environmentalists and polar experts
Our North Pole Expedition is aimed at ushering in a new revolutionary clean technology into aviation, and transform aviation into a mode of transport that is clean, quiet, comfortable and an experience in itself.
OceanSky is running a seaplane experience in the Arctic Circle where we use biofuel to furthest extent possible. This is to support and develop the market for biofuel, which is still struggling and hard to get hold of. See more info on http://www.seaplaneexperiences.com
We have teamed up with CHOOOSE to make the expedition from Svalbard to the North Pole climate positive. Through CHOOOSE we pay for any eventual CO2 emissions with a carbon offset – in case we have any CO2 emissions. CHOOOSE’s business idea is to buy as many climate credits as possible and then tear them apart so that no one can ever use these to pollute. For the price of a cup of cappuccino per month, CHOOOSE reduces more than the environmental impact customers leave behind, thus making them climate-positive. Each carbon credit is equivalent to a reduction of 1 ton of CO2 emissions and is purchased directly from green and sustainable projects in developing countries. This reduces both global CO2 emissions and finances wind farms, solar plants and other projects that replace coal and oil. All are approved by the UN, and credits form a key part of these projects’ funding.
Going to the North Pole with the largest flying vehicle ever built in modern times is a quest that will show the world what lighter-than-air technology can do for humanity and our transport needs. Showing we can land without a footprint and fly with minimum amount of energy consumption is the mission of the North Pole expedition.
Sustainability by definition means you can keep doing what you are doing in perpetuity, without depleting any natural resources. At OceanSky we believe that lighter-than-air technology holds that potential. To travel, fly and transport, without the need of fossil fuel.
However, our expedition is just one step towards the final goal – true sustainability. It might be the most important step, because it will create a kick start for people to see and understand the potential and usability of the LTA technology.
A hybrid aircraft use a fraction of the energy of an airplane. We are working on the estimates as we write this, in order to show numbers on this.
The most interesting aspect is although the fact that airships require very little power to fly and they don’t require large infrastructure and runways to operate. Airliners (jet airplanes) require very much power to fly as well as runways and aprons to taxi on. This is because airliners are heavy and airships are light. In comparison, let’s use a real airship as an example, the historical airship Macon. It used around 3,3 percent of the horsepower (or kW as depicted) as a Boeing 747 Jumbojet. The Macon was an American military airship based on the Zeppelin models. The comparison is reasonable because if the same size airship (around 200,000m3 size) would be built with today’s technology, it would carry a comparable amount of payload as a jumbo jet. The speed would be around 100 kts. A jet flies 440kts approximately.
If you convert horsepower into fuel consumption per distance, in order to compare it with a large jet, you can multiply by 5 as that is the approximate speed factor difference between a large airship and large jet. 3,3%x5 is 17%. So, a large airship would, and did, use about 17% of the energy as a large jet of comparable payload. So the carbon emissions would be 83% less.
However, there is not only the save in energy consumption! If you only require a fraction of the horsepower of a jet engine – you can then fairly simply use other, more efficient engines, such as electrical engines etc. With low power requirement you also open your options to the source of energy where you draw your power (energy carrier) such as batteries, solar power etc. This is what airplanes struggle with, the need for power and the limitations it brings, which basically means airplanes are stuck on oil.
OceanSky supports all initiatives regarding progressing electrical flight development as well as using biofuel.
And we don’t deny that electrical airplanes can serve a part of the transportation industry work, although extremely marginal. Batteries are very limited and very heavy. Even with the most positive outlook on battery development it is so many years away that battery driven airplanes will serve any short or mid range transport work. However as short distance taxis – battery driven flying vehicles actually looks feasible.
For mid and long range travel there are unfortunately not much hope for batteries as an energy carrier in airplanes. See below the fundamental physics behind this argument.
Today a Tesla battery holds about 200 watts per kilogram, while kerosene jet fuel holds about 12,000 watts per kilogram. It’s about a 60 times difference.
Even if we calculated with a tremendous battery development in the next ten years and produced a battery that is safe enough without explosion risk to be put in an aircraft that would have 300 watts per kilogram, it’s still a 40 times difference.
A flight from Stockholm to Palma de Mallorca has an approximate fuel requirement of 10 tons, with a Boeing 737 if using kerosene jet fuel. If we would use batteries we would need 400 tons on-board to meet the equivalent energy supply. The 737 have a maximum take off weight of around 80 tonnes. The fundamentals are sadly not there for electrical flight, it’s an attractive notion, but it’s just a too far away dream to think electrical flight is a solution to our transport needs, at least mid- and long range.
The technical answer is yes, but the true answer is no. Jet engines can run on biofuel, there are no big issues regarding the technical aspects.
The problem with biofuel is that it cannot be produced in the amount that the world is consuming oil. It can be a marginal production only – a few percent of total world consumption.
The reason is the vast amount of land areal that is needed to produce the world’s thirst for fuel. It is close to impossible to supply the amount of biofuel needed to replace fossil fuels. The key to slow climate change lies in the reduction adding CO2 to the atmosphere. To reduce CO2 we need to reduce the burning of fossil energy. The key to reduce fossil energy consumption lies in using technologies that performs similar or same services to humanity to a fraction of the energy consumption.
LTA is a technology that uses lifting gas, such as helium, to displace the weight (the force of gravity pulling an object towards the ground). This means that the object encompassing a lifting gas becomes more or less weightless, or even positively buoyant, depending on design.
An object that is neutrally buoyant in air does not have to produce lift to keep flying. This is what makes airships so efficient. This is similar to how a boat floats in the water and is explained by the principles of Archimedes.
Safety is a key element when talking about any mass-market transport mode. OceanSky see the lighter than air technology as a potential reformation of commercial aviation industry – safety means everything!
As the history of airships gives a very skewed perception from a safety standpoint, due to the ill-fated Hindenburg accident that, as the first catastrophe caught on film, and which was released royalty free to all corners of the globe, we need to give some perspective on the matter. Some would say the release of the film was a cunning plan to spread the word and discredit the rising superpower Germany.
Statistically, airship travel in the 30’s was actually safe, by comparison to other modes of transport! The DELAG, the German Zeppelin airline and the world’s first airline, started operations in 1910 and did not have one single accident until the famous Hindenburg accident in 1937, when the hydrogen ignited in New Jersey that tragic evening.
Hydrogen and helium
Today, hydrogen is not allowed as lifting gas, and instead Helium is used in modern airship technology. Helium is an inert gas and impossible to ignite. In fact we could use Helium as a fire extinguishing gas just as Halon is used in aviation as fire suppression.
Back in the 30’s it was only the US that had access to the natural resource Helium, and embargoed all trade with Germany for the precious gas. Therefore the Zeppelins were filled with the flammable gas Hydrogen instead of Helium. The Helium supply was controlled by the government of the US and therefore ruled by political motives.
In aviation, an important aspect of safety is the relative speed of travel upon landing and taking off. Up in the air the speed is less relevant in regards to safety as there are not any other objects to hit. But close to ground there are lots of objects to avoid such as terrain, masts, buildings and vehicles. An airplane speed upon landing is around 120kts (220km/h). This is a very high speed and any accidents in this phase of flight can mean devastating results.
On the contrary, when airships land they typically land in a maximum speed of 20kts (37km/h). Any accident that takes place in 20kts usually results in bruises and not lost souls.
Loss of power
Furthermore, a loss of engine power is a very serious event for an airline pilot. Airplanes cannot fly without power and aircraft have limited choices for emergency landings because the need of a runway.
Consider all engines fail on an airship. Nothing dramatically actually occurs. The airship would slowly and gently sink towards the ground and have almost infinite number of emergency landing options.
Loss of pressurization
What about hull rupture? Airplanes use pressurised hulls and fly at high altitudes. A hull rupture is very serious and has created accidents both from sucking passengers out of the hull as well as created lethally low oxygen levels on high altitudes. The most critical hull rupture of an airship would not be in the passenger gondola (as the gondola of the cabin is non-pressurised) but in the lifting gas containment area.
But even so, a hole as big as a cannon ball, would take days to affect any lifting component of the airship significantly. This is because the incredible vast amount of lifting gas that is enclosed. Airships contain tens of thousands of cubic metre of lifting gas, and what we would consider a big hole, would be a pinhole in regards to the hull the size of an airship
Yes and they will. This is the reason why OceanSky see airships as a solution to bring sustainable mobility and transport. Using hyper efficient lighter than air technology aviation equipment is the first step to move away from fossil fuel. It’s not actually the energy efficiency that is the most interesting in lighter than air technology, even if it is of great importance as well, but it is the low power requirement that make airships more flexible in terms of choosing an energy carrier that is non-fossil, i.e. batteries, hydrogen or even solar cells.
Airplanes, on the contrary, are stuck on fossil fuels, because oil is one of few energy carriers that can suffice a jet engine power requirement and at the same time be reasonably chemically stable (non-explosive) and also have high energy density.
To understand why airships can become the future and transform an industry, it is relevant to understand the basics of physics that concerns lighter than air technology vehicles. An airplane that weighs 400 tonnes needs to keep flying and can only do that by creating lift through its wings. In order to do that it needs air flow over an aerodynamic surface, simply put: speed and wings.
Creating lift produces drag, and drag needs to be overcome by an opposite force. The opposite force is derived from the engines, which is run by the supply of energy in the form of fuel. In aviation that fuel is kerosene refined from oil.
In addition, airplanes, or in fact all transport modes need to overcome what is called parasite drag. This is the same as air resistance, the drag created from pushing an object through the air. Parasite drag increases with velocity squared (velocity is the same as speed).
Airships fly much slower than airplanes, which preserve energy. Furthermore, airships with neutral buoyancy do not need to create lift, which also preserve energy. Hence, neutral buoyant airships would be the most energy efficient transport mode available till date. The only even more energy efficient way to transport would probably be teleportation.
Well, they do work but in a modern world they do not work well enough. The reason is that conventional airships such as the historic Zeppelins were not able to land without ground crew and infrastructure such as masts and machinery.
This made them very limited and could only fly between points that were prepared for their arrival. Also, another issue is that the historical airships could not offload passengers or cargo without replacing the weight. The above issues make conventional or traditional airships cumbersome and limited in operation.
Modern airship design resolves these issues of not being able to land without infrastructure or ground crew and ground handling issues.
This is made possible through two main design directions, namely Hybrid or Buoyancy-controlled airships.
Hybrid airships are heavier than air. This means they need to create a little bit of lift in order to remain airborne. They are designed with a shape of an aerofoil to create the lift. The efficiency comes from only being slightly heavier than air, in comparison to an aircraft that are almost twice as heavy as the payload it carries.
The benefit from being slightly heavier than air is that pilots are in control of the manoeuvring of the airship without the need of ground equipment. Another benefit is that a hybrid airship sits still on the ground after landing, even if offloading passengers.
Buoyancy-controlled airships are a different story. They can control the buoyancy depending on which phase of flight it is – climb, cruise or descent. By controlling the buoyancy they can optimize efficiency as well as improve ground handling when on and offloading.
The way to control the buoyancy can be achieved by different technologies, for example:
compression of the lifting gas
Both hybrid airships and buoyancy-controlled airships are by design given the revolutionary characteristic of reaching any part of the world that has a reasonable flat surface to land. This means that humanity will have access to not only the civilized part of the world but to any corner of the world within a few days reach.
OceanSky believes that this new ability comes with significant responsibilities for humanity, and we hope to foster a new era of conscious and responsible travel in order to preserve the untouched parts of our world. Our motto is to leave without a footprint.
The interesting thing about airships is their lightness. This means they can land on almost any flat surface without really affecting the surface. Furthermore, if landing on a rooftop or any other flat construction, there is no need for built-in support.
This brings possibilities. Historical airships were planned to dock on skyscrapers. In fact, the Empire State building in New York was designed to accommodate an airship, and board and disembark passengers directly into the building.
Airships can offer an alternative way of travel and transport. OceanSky believes airplanes will take very long, too long, before they can use anything else than fossil fuels.. (read more under “WHAT ABOUT SUSTAINABLE AIRPLANES AND ELECTRICAL FLIGHT WITH BATTERIES?” and “CAN AIRSHIPS FLY ON NON-FOSSIL FUELS?”).
This means, that in order for our world to continue to travel and transport, we need to become energy efficient and preserve our energy consumption. At least until the day we have abundant clean energy.
It is true that airships may fly one fifth of the speed of airplanes. It is also true that airships can be 3 times the speed of a boat or as fast as a train.
But speed is not always time efficient. When talking about time we often talk about “to loose time”. It is interesting to understand what is meant by “lost time”. Consider a morning flight from Stockholm to London in order to attend a morning meeting. You’d have to wake up at 4am in the morning to make the early 7am departure to London in order to attend the meeting (2,5h flight time with airplane). You may say that you loose half a night’s sleep transporting yourself to London.
Now consider boarding an airship in Stockholm at 9pm the night before, to arrive to London in time for your meeting (12 hour flight time with airship). Airships will always offer a comfortable setting as by their inherit characteristics they are restricted by weight and not by volume. This means that for an airship airline, there is no alternative cost by offering every traveller a comfortable accommodation (see WHY WILL FUTURE AIRSHIPS ALWAYS BE VERY COMFORTABLE?). Hence future passengers will always have a comfortable setting. On your airship flight to London you sleep the whole night, and therefore did not “loose time”. Speed does not always equate to time-efficiency!
To understand this you must understand the economics behind unit cost and alternative cost. And also accept the argument that airlines always opt for profit.
Consider each square meter offered to passengers on an airliner jet as a unit cost. In order to offer a passenger a more comfortable seat, like a business class seat instead of an economy seat, the airline needs to allocate that seat more space. The unit cost for the airline then increases. Since an aircraft cannot be made bigger (space limited), because it would then not be optimized for aerodynamics in 900km/h, the airline needs to choose to offer either a number of economy seats or a lesser number of business class seats – or a combination of the two. A lesser number of business seats means each business passenger need to pay more in order to equate the total revenue for the flight. This is called alternative cost balancing.
This is not the case with airships, as they are not space limited. Since airships are weight limited, they are limited by the total weight of the passengers. Even if the airline would like to put more paying passengers on the airship because they physically would fit inside, it would be impossible due to the performance of the vehicle.
This means that each passenger will, by inherit characteristics, have lots of space inside an airship since there are no alternative cost associated to that space. This will offer airship travellers a higher degree of comfort. Just like the old days of Zeppelin travel, lots of comfort and space – by economics!
See “WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF AIRSHIPS OR LIGHTER THAN AIR VEHICLES?”
Yes, we will probably see solar cells on airships in the near future because it just makes sense.
With the uniquely low power requirement of airships, solar cells can provide the energy needed to propel an airship, even with today’s state of the art effectiveness.
The manufacturer of the Airlander, Hybrid Air Vehicle (HAV) is on the path to develop electrical engines for Airlander 10. Read more about Project E-HAV1 here:
One big difference is that many of the historical airships used hydrogen as lifting gas (the gas inside the airship that gives buoyancy and is also the reason for great efficiency) and modern airships use helium today. Hydrogen is a flammable and explosive gas and helium is non-flammable and non-explosive. That’s one reason why modern airships are safer.
Historical airships did not have manoeuvring capability close to ground. When not moving forward there are no airflow over rudder and elevators, which render them useless without speed. This means that pilots are not in control when landing, instead ground crew and ground equipment controls the historical airships close to ground.
This means that the historical airships were limited to places where there were preparations made for the airship arrival. Modern airships are designed to land without infrastructure and preparations. This revolutionizes air travel as it opens up all corners of our planet, as long as there is a reasonably flat surface to land on.
Historical airships, from a modern day perspective, were limited in using the material and engineering know how of the early 1900s. The internal structures of the airships were extremely heavy in comparison to what is achievable today.
This meant that historical airships did not have the payload capacity in relation to their size, of what would be their equivalent today. Everything has developed since 100 years, not just materials. We have better understanding of aerodynamics, we can build better engines, we have better batteries and even solar cells and we have developed the regulatory framework for aviation to be much safer than 100 years ago.
See WHY DOESN’T CONVENTIONAL AIRSHIPS WORK? and WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MODERN AND HISTORICAL AIRSHIPS?
In 1936, a one-way ticket from Frankfurt, Germany to Lakehurst, NJ, USA cost $400. This was roughly the cost of a new car at the time. A round-trip ticket saved passengers $80, bringing the cost down to $720. This was incredibly expensive compared to crossing by ship, the most common form of intercontinental travel at the time. Although the Queen Mary also had first class ticket that cost $663 in first class.
First-class passengers on German oceanliners could cross the North Atlantic for between $157 and $240. Third class passengers would pay as little as $82 for the journey. Because of these prices, airship travel was truly for the elite.
In 1937 the cost on the Zeppelin was increased to $450 (the equivalent of approximately $8,000 today) for a one-way trip.
DELAG, Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-AktienGesellschaft, was founded in 1909 as the world’s first airline and operated from 1910 to 1936 without a single casualty. Total distance of flights carried out, only in the starting 4 years of the DELAG, was more than 200,000 km and 40,000 passengers carried. Then came the First World War, but after the war the service continued with even greater and larger Zeppelin airships, a few of them below.
LZ120 Bodensee and LZ121 Nordstern, connected the cities of Europe after the First World War, commencing services in 1919. Only the first 3 months the Bodensee flew over 100 flights of which 78 were scheduled departures transporting over 2,000 passengers. Both Zeppelins transferred however as war reparations under the Versailles treaty.
LZ127 Graf Zeppelin, which is considered the most successful airship ever built, flew the first commercial trans-Atlantic flight between Germany and USA in 1928. The year after it made the first commercial flight around the world and in 1931 it made a scientific expedition flying in the Arctic, called Polarfahrt in 1931.
The longest flight was 6 385 km (3 967 miles) and the longest time airborne was a 71 hours flight over the Pacific Ocean. From 1928 to 1937, Graf Zeppelin did 590 flights covering 1,6 million km. LZ129 Hindenburg’s first commercial flight was to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It made 17 trans-Atlantic flights, 10 between Germany and USA and 7 between Germany and Brazil.
Hindenburg took between 50 and 70 passengers and there were between 40 and 60 in the crew so a little bit more than 100 persons on board.
In general, early airships were slower. Also the size of the airship matter as length generally increases the max speed.
LZ10 Schwaben, built 1911, maximum speed was 41kts or 77 km/hLZ127.
Graf Zeppelin, built 1928, maximum speed was 69kts or 128 km/h LZ129.
Hindenburg, built 1936, maximum speed was 74 kts or 135 km/h.
For the service in the 1930s, from Frankfurt to New York, the flight time was slightly more than 2 days, in comparison to travel by ship, which took around 5 days with Queen Mary, and up to 10 days with other ships.
The difference was even greater comparing the service to South America where Zeppelins sailings were just 4 days to Rio de Janeiro. The Zeppelins were able to keep a quite rigid schedule during their oversea crossings, as they learned to navigate and sail with the wind.